About this Show

Book TV

Jonathan Kozol Education. (2012) 'Fire In the Ashes Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children In America.' New.

NETWORK

DURATION
01:15:00

RATING

SCANNED IN
San Francisco, CA, USA

SOURCE
Comcast Cable

TUNER
Channel 91 (627 MHz)

VIDEO CODEC
mpeg2video

AUDIO CODEC
ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
704

PIXEL HEIGHT
480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Paul Jennings 11, Us 10, Washington 10, New York 8, America 6, Webster 5, Virginia 4, Boston 3, Arizona 3, Montpelier 3, Mr. Rogers 3, Massachusetts 2, Payne Todd 2, Caterpillar 2, United States 2, Phoenix 2, England 2, The City 2, Lafayette 1, Paris 1,
Borrow a DVD
of this show
  CSPAN    Book TV    Jonathan Kozol  Education.  (2012) 'Fire In the Ashes  
   Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children In America.' New.  

    October 6, 2012
    3:00 - 4:15pm EDT  

3:00pm
buildings and properties in the city which don't pay taxes but use our services and use our roads, put the stress or extra burden on property taxpayers. that is part of the burden they have to bear for being the capital city and some times what the state wants to do doesn't necessarily follow the typical ordnances most businesses and residents have to comply with. city ordinances don't necessarily apply to the state so it can be a fraction point but we try to work through those things and understand the benefits of being the capital city far away from the down side that we have to deal with but the biggest challenge is always jobs and that is true of any
3:01pm
community. you have seen what we have to offer. it is a vibrant community and there's a lot going on and a brand-new hospital coming online and brand new courthouse that is a $15 million project and the commerce center down the road that is the major construction. we are going to have a big construction project on the interstate that will make traffic move better and commercial development going on in this city and in the census we gained a population of 550 people which doesn't sound like a lot but was 9%. the first time augusta groove since the 1970 census. a lot of positive momentum. we have a downtown area that is revitalizing and growing business to young people who want to live down there and businesses want to locate downtown salon is going for us. >> watch booktv all weekend to see more from our recent visit to agusta, maine.
3:02pm
for more information visited by booktv's local content vehicles go to c-span.org/localcontent. >> next on booktv education activists jonathan kozol talks about inner-city children he followed since the age of 6 to 18-year-old. he examines the economic and educational obstacles each child has face as they progress through their school system. it is about an hour. [applause] >> thank you very much. thanks, tom and thanks as always to my absolutely favorite bookstore in america, politics and prose. i love that books for.
3:03pm
[applause] and thanks to each and every one of you for being here. i am particularly glad to the with so many friends tonight. i don't mean with some double meaning, i just mean friends old and new. some of my oldest friends in the audience. it means a great deal to me because to -- tomorrow is my birthday. i will be all alone on an airplane going through six hours to some place i haven't checked the schedule yet, i think it is something like portland, ore. or san diego. united airlines is not going to
3:04pm
give me any presents. are there any teachers with us tonight? how many? oh, great. i am glad. [applause] >> i always feel safer in a room with teachers. teachers are my heroes. especially, i will admit, the ones who love children in the elementary grades because those are the grades i used to teach. i think they do the best thing it is to do in life, bringing joy and beauty, mystery and mischief to the precise people. if i ever decide to stop writing books, i think i would like to go back to first grade and do it all again.
3:05pm
i think i am a teacher in 1964. i never intended to become a teacher. i grew up in a privileged family. my mother and father were ambitious. i have gone to harvard, forgive me. i majored in shakespearean hero poetry, metaphysical poetry studying archibald mcleach and on the roads to oxford i got bored at oxford and because so many harvard boys talked as if they were british. even the ones from idaho sounded like british royalty.
3:06pm
i spent a couple years studying in paris at the feet of some great authors, american writers, came back to the united states early in 1964 planning to go back to the university to lead an academic career, when my life was totally transformed forever in the summer that year when the rising tide in the fight for civil rights swept across the nation. thousands of young people my age or heading to mississippi to try to break the back of segregation in the south. i was living in cambridge at the time. one day i simply got in my car. this was the 1916s. it was a little par.
3:07pm
and i drove across town into the black community. i had never been in the black community before although i had grown up just outside of boston and i went to a minister, a wonderful man, some of you may recall his name. a revered figure in the black community and some close associate of dr. king and i asked him simply may i be of use? and he said yes, young man, you can. and he said i am glad you are here to talk to me in your own home town because you don't need to go to mississippi to find injustice in america. he said you can join the struggle here. come into schools and try to
3:08pm
help our children. i walked into the headquarters of boston public school and said i am going to be a teacher. i had never heard of certification. i knew nothing about teaching. didn't teach anything useful. they still don't teach you much that is useful. the first day i ever talked they taught me to teach kindergarten. first time i ever talked in my life. i was terrified. i have no idea what to do with people that size. toomey they were like gerbils and crawled all over me. but i survived. they promoted me to be a fourth grade teacher and one way or another i have been working with young people ever since.
3:09pm
starting in the late years of the 1980s, and throughout the 1990s, i began to spend my time with a bunch of little kids living in new york in a section called mudhaven which was then and is still today this angle poorest neighborhood in the south bronx which remains to this day of forced congressional district out of all 235 congressional districts in america. i thought i had seen poverty in boston but i had never seen anything on this scale before. what happened to those? did you keep in touch with them? how many have survived? how many did not?
3:10pm
for those who did survive how did they obtain a decent education? how far did their education take them and what are they doing now? some of them i am sad to say never did recover from the battering they underwent with one or two exceptions among the worst i have seen anywhere in the united states. and streets were needle drugs and crack cocaine almost everywhere. three boys who suffered most, said to say, no longer are alive. i had known him when he was eight or so and finally killed himself with a bullet to his
3:11pm
brain in a moment of despair. another killed himself intentionally with an overdose of heroin. and died by searching on the subway train. he is riding on the top of the trains under the tunnels of new york and his friends were lying down, but he, in a moment of bravado as if to say nothing the city does to me can stop me now as if we were in vince will he lifted up his head and waved to is franz, still struck his skull, his body shuddered twice and he was dead. he was not yet 14 at the time.
3:12pm
three kids who lost their lives, their hopes and dreams at an early age. i am morning for them th their mothers and until the present day. happily there are other children, many children in this book who battled back courageously against the obstacles they faced and with the help of grown-ups who intervened at crucial times and loved them deeply and fought aggressively on their behalf have won triumphant victories. those children are the fire and the ashes whom i celebrate today. i wish there were time tonight to speak of all of them, but
3:13pm
there isn't. i will speak of only one. the little girl who won the hearts of readers of my books and is today one of my dearest friends whose nickname was pineapple. pineapple was 6 years old when i walked into her kindergarten class. a bossy little person i must say. slightly on the plump side. bright corner rose across her eyes. giving instructions almost from the time we match. she was respectful to me because of my age, but she found me deeply flawed. in third grade she decided my
3:14pm
social life wasn't interesting enough. i wasn't married. she tried to fix me up with teachers. i wish she succeeded but it didn't work. she told me she didn't like the suit i wore. i used to wear the same black suit. a really nice suit but it was kind of shabby by this time and little kids are interesting. they notice things like that among grown-ups. that feature is a woman. what did you do to your hair? you look horrible. she sat me down like a little social worker, i had to -- i remember she grabbed the lapel
3:15pm
of the jacket and she figured it with her hands the way you do, the way your mother would do. you are not going out in that? she said jonathan, i want you to look respectable. do me a favor, she said. sunday when you are over revers, over there was an expression many children used for the part of town where wealthy white people lived, over there, some place nice. go into a good store and buy yourself a good new suit. do it for me. i finally did. us that $400 to escape her bullying. pineapple lived in a horrible building.
3:16pm
a complex of 38 buildings. people often say you always speak of abstractions. you never name names. his name was gerald schuster. he discovered -- he lived in massachusetts in the same town where i grew up. they refused to make repairs. they got these buildings from hud. you know what that is? the federal housing and urban development. some of the buildings the plumbing didn't work so waste piled up on the basement floors. elevators are not just unreliable. pineapple would never let me use the elevator in her building. in the seventh floor apartments
3:17pm
-- one of her schoolmates died when he lived on the fourth floor and the elevator door suddenly opened but there was no elevator. step forward automatically and felt we for flights. he wasn't found until his blood began to drip. pineapple's full was even worse. there is a vile looking place. it is like a horror story. how can i duplicate this for these children? it smelled like a feeding trough for cattle and i know pineapple forced me down to eat there with her. she didn't think i would believe her and she was right. you have to see and smell.
3:18pm
i happen to believe this fedex count a lot in the young mentalities. beautiful settings refine their souls. this is how children perceive how little value we perceive in him. it is the sharpest way to draw the line across the raises. and i grew up in privilege. i knew it -- i knew what cafeteria looks like. glass doors and open them on a
3:19pm
sunny day. teachers can sit and chat with you. not for pineapple. 32 or 34 or 36 in a single room. teachers didn't stay for long and in fourth grade years this continuity of that kind. it is calamitous. the large size of classes is worse. there are wealthy people in new york who insist that class size doesn't matter. inner-city kids, those kids would simply buckle down and their teachers were not so lady. laz-z-boy. teachers are the current scapegoat for all the sins of
3:20pm
american society. i always ask these people, they say to me, does class size really matter. i don't mean to be unkind but i always ask how many children are in their classes, typical lancer, 15, 16, may be 18 at the most. parents start to panic if it gets to 20. pineapple had 36 in fourth grade. i don't know how you feel but this is my belief. there's a small class size and individual attention as a lousy teacher to give every boy and girl. if this is good for the sun of an attorney or physician or the
3:21pm
daughter of the senator or big-time business ceo, it is good for the child of the poorest black hispanic or white woman in america. that is my own belief. [applause] >> can you really solve those problems by throwing money at them? i always say sure. it is a great way to do it. drop it from a helicopter. give it to me. i will bring it to the principle myself. i don't know a better way to fix a leaking roof or hire another teacher. they can split that gigantic class in half. carnival's principal thought she could compensate for a huge class size and disappearing
3:22pm
teachers by rigid uniformity and methods of instruction and obsessive drilling for exams. this was the precursor of no child left behind. because many of you -- already being modeled in many cities by houston and new york before it was granted as a blessing to the entire nation, testing, is that good for the test? will that help in the test? and nothing else. instead of giving children literature to read, real books, beautiful books, magical works by eric carle. you know who he is, very hungry
3:23pm
caterpillar. he called me up once. i was so happy. us said to him you don't sound like a caterpillar. and other books for children a little older, slightly older for advanced in reading, a wonderful book called purple plastic purse. i recommend it to adults over time. it is right up there with a fellow and king lear. marvelous book. i read children's books on airplanes. on a flight to los angeles from boston. and gave me the strangest looks. he was reading the wall street journal. i noticed he kept peeking at my
3:24pm
book to trade with him and this book could save your soul. in stead pineapple got these horrible tictac phonics readers. i am not opposed to phonics. i used to teach -- i encourage teachers to use phonics selectively for specific children in instances where they need it -- these book -- these are the books, the kind of folks created -- sort of crazy people in this country about phonics. there is a woman in arizona -- a lot of strange people in
3:25pm
arizona. i am going to be there in three days so i hope they don't see the tape of this but there is a woman in arizona, every time i speak even when i went out to phoenix and spoke about the homeless families comes up to me at the end as though there was a secret between us and whispers to me phonics. i call her the fanatic fanatics from phoenix. pineapple was given this book, the first book in the series. no pictures. no lovely drawings or anything. no plot. calfs sam. how does that grab you? the first phase of the 6-year-old. the story was one sentence that
3:26pm
went on 18 pages. said sam sat on the sand. you can you guess i don't know if that was to teach the consonant or the valve and ask the teachers to predict what happens next? keep sitting there? it didn't work. pineapple learned next to nothing at that school. autumn of her fifth grade year i sat down with her and said i never realized because her conversational skills were superb i sat down with her and found she could not read or write a sentence walker than five words. she was a smart little girl. she had been artificially retarded by the city of new york. i talked about this with a trusted friend of mine.
3:27pm
the priest of a church in the south bronx in pineapple's neighborhood. in spite of the priests's unflagging loyalty to the ideal of public education which i share, she did what any wealthy parent would have done. she pulled pineapple out and used to wit and while to get pineapple into a terrific private school. not a profit-making charter schools. not a slogan loaded charter school but a prep school for rich children. suddenly now with 15 children in the class instead of 30 and teachers not terrorized and delete by the city into drilling for exams but actually enjoyed
3:28pm
pineapple's personality, she made up nearly three years in writing and reading skills and the four years she was there. in ninth grade she won a scholarship to a very good and racially mixed boarding school in new england on the coastline of rhode island's where again she had small classes and teachers who treated children with respect in part because they were treated with respect by the administer. tenth grade pineapple told me later was my breakthrough year. from that point on, she said i knew i could do it, that i could go to college. and it was a struggle for her. but she did. let me tell you, friends.
3:29pm
one week from now she will be entering her senior year of college. she didn't drop out for the lay or need an extra year. she told me she has made up her mind to stay on in grad school in order to get certified as a teacher because she wants to teach in the new york public schools. shea wants to work with children in the bronx. they never end affirmative sentences with periods when they're talking. i can imitated but you know what
3:30pm
i mean. dr. king said this or something like this or someone said this, pass the torch along. that was the close and then there was a question mark that she said. that is what i decided i'm going to do. ..
3:31pm
it's time for you to get real furniture. i would be glad to go with you to target any time you like. that's your favorite store. she was lucky to get she won the hearts of grown-ups who could intervene to her, and you know, the priest of the church did the same for a lot of kids come saved a lot of souls but if there is any lesson here in my believe it is not that we should celebrate exceptional body of opportunity. pineapple prevail in part on scholarships, philanthropy and
3:32pm
charges -- charge is a lovely thing. i never turn it down i assure you, but it will never become it never was and it isn't now a substitute for a systematic justice. thanks. [applause] it's a precarious, it's selective. and a child didn't have to be a charmer to get an education in which the nation of the world only the highest level of free and equal universal non-selective public education can ever close the gap between the glasses and the races in america is my belief. a lot of people have given up on the whole jeffersonian idea.
3:33pm
i grew up thinking john dewey was a hero, and now that i mention him on tv, you know, people think i must be a socialist. socialist, but we don't mention him here. did you know my books have been banned in tucson arizona? how many new that? a lot of books i love in putting wallgren on civil disobedience. i'm going to have a great time while i am out there with hand copies of my new book.
3:34pm
here are a few final words, respectful words about the hesitation on the president speak out these matters and on the city. i use that word purposely because he used that word in an excellent book that he rode. i respect the president and i will of course vote for him in the election with a lifelong democrat i still remember her weeping denied roosevelt died. my mother just passed away from planning that hillary wasn't liberal enough. if i had voted for republican
3:35pm
coming back from the grave and scold me like pineapple was. but i am disappointed that the president hasn't taken stronger steps to rid us of this mania of testing which ever since no child left behind has come into law is the kind of national psychosis, but there's something psychotic about it. it can't be numbered. it doesn't count. my father's psychiatrist use to take me to the back boards of mental hospitals in massachusetts and so many people on the most severe depression the only way they could ease their discomfort is by numbering
3:36pm
everything. they would restlessly move object surrounded the table to get them in the pattern, and as i mentioned, some of the bureaucrats in washington maybe they would enjoy este in the recovery house to get over this numerical what action. this hoping of judging children and their teachers primarily on the basis of that very narrow slice of purely mechanistic skills that can be measured more simplistically by standardized exam and ruling out as a consequence ruling out all of those more authentic forms of culture that are not reduced to numbers like reading books for
3:37pm
pleasure. it's the only reason i read a book. you get no points for pleasure or asking thoughtful questions or indulging curiosity, developing real critical capacity so when they grow what they can be discerning citizens for getting a curiosity and a question would not improve their score. in fact it would impede the teacher because they steal time. i see some of you nodding. you know, in these schools scientists yield to the teachers but at any given minute in the day you have to have on the chalkboard the score and the name and number of the skill you
3:38pm
were teaching at the moment. 9:20 better be on suffixes and prefixes depending on which city you are in. i know teachers who would love to engage the children of the rich conversations out of which they would illicit good writing. they are dying and you don't want them to die and little ones especially are very squirmy little people. the ask something exciting and if you listen for a few minutes
3:39pm
then you can say that's wonderful, stephen it's got something to write about that he cares about. what the curriculum copps come in and judge me? the history teacher ran into the principal's office and said i'd never seen my students more excited as they got there when we were talking about whatever it was coming and i like most principles, but the principal said his excitement on the head, the ninth grade exam the
3:40pm
enlightened public schools and a good private schools and courage to ask questions. that's what the teachers want to read the children are being trained instead of spinning out predigested answers so they got it in the races and the class's becomes far greater than before. i want to make it clear that i'm not opposed to testing. i don't want you leaving and thinking i'm one of those romantic hippies from the 1960's. you know what i mean. i did it in the late 1960's and early 70's who were opposed to anything that had any structure at all. remember something called the open classroom? that's what i mean. i was opposed to it all along.
3:41pm
i would go out there and see these kids doing nothing and the parent might come up and say to the teacher if you don't mind my boy is 12-years-old and he can't read anything, and these were sweet people, so i hate to make fun of them, but the teacher might see something like don't worry what a beautiful child. he is a beautiful soul when he feels his own organic and spontaneous need to let us know i don't wink we should advocate adel what like that. i'm not opposed to testing because it is useful testing by which i mean the test actually help teachers to assess and we
3:42pm
call these diagnostic tests because they teach it instantly where susy needs more help with punctuation perhaps more with long division, and right away you act on it the next morning because you give the test yourself. but standardized exams don't provide this kind of help. the teacher in most cities the teacher never sees the test scores until when. you know when? years over and the retroactive label on the charts ahead at a time it's a useful to us all they permit the states to
3:43pm
consider other factors also in addition to the test in the child's progress these are called waivers in determining whether the progress and the evaluation of the child's teacher to be the determinative factors in the ratings of our teachers precisely because of this business driven madness about things that can be numbered. there's a student in my book i wish i could've told the story to the there is no time.
3:44pm
he was 12 and he -- when i met him he was already at the age of 12 on his own reading mark twain, and as he put it circling charles dickens and he liked horror books for one year. it's an awful. i didn't know what was a real novel. i thought it was just something to scare children. so i made a bargain with him. he promised that if i would read dracula he would read the tale of two cities and we both kept our promise and i think he dust got the best part of that bargain he and he handed me this
3:45pm
first novel. he failed every test he took because he hated the test. she hated to deal with the test and he wouldn't participate in the drilling for tests. some of those schools are just teaching the kids how to outwit the test. there's nothing to do with learning. here's another one that we pulled out. he went to school in new england and the principle even said they would never go to college, they are not college material because he couldn't pass the test. a wonderful headmaster in new england said to get the scores there's something in his eyes i want him don't worry credit from
3:46pm
a wonderful college a couple years ago serving the kids he had behind there's so many. he's giving a guest sermon. but you know, they are so wonderful there is no way they would show up in the numbers they don't do well on the standardized exams. he would purposely picked the wrong answers in this stubborn. at least emerson said he was.
3:47pm
so the numbers continue to dominate everything and it's having a terrible effect upon teachers on the morale of good teachers. we are going for five minutes, ten minutes because i want to get to meet you personally. but i will give you an example in two of the largest cities where they are the largest cities in los angeles and new york i hope i'm right the school department's right now are not just reading teachers on the basis of tests. they listen to the press to the newspapers and the ratings of the teachers rated from zero to 10100 is the best fighting --
3:48pm
the best i think. based on the exams and the l.a. times and "the new york post" or printing them. the teacher has 20 children in a class of 40 to read it doesn't matter a quarter of the kids didn't even come to the class in the middle of the years. the teacher sees her name with the words and effective mediocre, rotten apple, that's "the new york post," that's happening right now. it's nothing more than a shaming ritual, but it's the purpose to drive the stake into the hearts of teachers and drive the best ones who refuse to teach the test out of educational together is certainly is the test.
3:49pm
i wish the president would condemn this assault on the dignity of teachers dillinger his heparin with all of the authority that he has to command he does a tremendous eloquence and i wish he would defy the right wing mats and step up and condemn this out rightly. the people that have contempt for teachers who tried for years to repair the legacy of public schooling in the nation or a voucher advocates remember that term? i know you have a small voucher program in d.c. many of these people in sad to say are in the corporate arena and they see an opportunity for an unprecedented
3:50pm
profits if they can build the public sector. these folks are very vocal noisy people. they dominate the attention. the rest are subdued i think. it's cripple less. well come here are two things i would like to say. i still have some rich white friends in new york city. they have dinner at their homes and introduce me to important people they say it is an odd
3:51pm
experience and i can tell they are nervous. they have a worried look that they might see something horrible like an adolescent kid might do on thanksgiving suddenly just as turkey is served say i am of vegan and you are eating flesh and give people the creeps. you know how teenagers do things like that. people are afraid i am going to see something horrible that will ruin the dinner party. but i am polite. i save it for dessert. i wait until the creme brulee and then i let them have it, but they forgive me. am i harshest critics don't forgive me and some of them are influential people and some are in tv.
3:52pm
have you ever seen fox tv? their sociopaths. [laughter] they're smart and mean and quick and use their words like sharpened knives with efficiency do i have time to risk as a board that -- subordinate cause and kill you with a word? hurts and i was not brought up for battles of this kind. but, i will tell you, my friends i am too old to bite my tongue. no matter what they do to try to meet my words matter what the price i may be forced to pay i will intend to keep on fighting in the struggle.
3:53pm
[applause] i don't like to make anybody gloomy exit republicans and. many people that i have relied upon for guidance have been taken from this world in the past ten years and you know, no matter how old you are, the same as the young people here, you
3:54pm
always feel the need for somebody that is wiser than you, and i think especially of my best and older friend the best our country ever had, certainly in the century a sweet and shy gentleman and mr. rogers. you knew i was quite as a mr. rogers. he's a beloved friend of mine. the sweetest man i ever knew. once when we were in new york together we did some in the morning together.
3:55pm
i wrote about the south bronx he was very humble and asked if i would intimidate the children at this time and i said i think we can handle what. how does it go? no trolly it is a way of new york number six line so that it's not just like eight minutes or something for the neighborhood in america to get off the broad avenue which then at that time was a very dangerous street. was the center of the trade in the neighborhood where the
3:56pm
dealers actually rented squares on the sidewalk from those that controlled the whole street. a whole square. you know the squares on the cement? we get up and want to take them to the public school and it doesn't matter how weak the size to address the six we criticize. i feel maybe no one here will remember who he is in the divided nation. maybe no one here -- you know, that thing hit, you know. they don't want to see another aging white man.
3:57pm
there are two of us and they wouldn't know who he was any way. we were up park avenue and were screeching to a halt. a driver, middle-aged black man came out and lifted him off the ground. [laughter] we go to the school and kindergarten, first grade teachers mr. rogers there and he didn't ask them about their to ayp. he asked them important questions like why they were scratching their tummies or something, not the teachers, the children. [laughter] is your tummy itchy? that's an important question. we went to the same after school where the priest had spotted pineapple as a candidate for
3:58pm
college and was in the basement of the church and it was packed with like 90 kids. there was a little boy at the far end of the room and he's also in my book as a grownup now come he was seven then and at that age if they don't like to they can make it painfully clear. but if they like you, you are in for it. but of course deep down i knew. none of us can. we all knew that we would die someday and lose the ones we love the most today. the treaties and innocence of children will outlive us. my friends, life goes so fast.
3:59pm
use it well. [applause] these interviews and more air through what the weekend kuran book tv.
4:00pm
former cia agent antonio mendez presents his book next come from the 12th annual national book festival, elizabeth allen taylor presents her book, "a slave in the white house : paul jennings and the madisons." it's about 45 minutes.
4:01pm
[applause] >> good afternoon. tilled to i am a first time author and i am thrilled to be here. [applause]i this was a true labor of love. i researched my topic for three years and spent a year plus writing it, and it is humbling d and gratifying to see it wealth received, and to the following walter isaacson, walter caro and am tony horwitz. [applause] i came to develop a strong
4:02pm
interest in paul jennings am i was the director of education and james madison of failure in virginia. i w as familiar with jennings memoir considered by the white house historical association to beof the first memoir of life in the white house. re itm was titled a colored man's reminiscence of james madison. and as the title implies, it's n more about the so-called brave man the author himself. my interest was in paul jennings. i set out to discover elements of his own biography to uncover the circumstances behind the original publication of the memoir in 1865 and to find an interview living direct descendents. a slave in the white house, paul
4:03pm
jennings and the madisons is the story of paul jennings' unique journey from slavery to freedom. it played out in the highest circles of ideas and power. the white house, james madison's study. it's the story of paul jennings' complicated relationship with the father of the constitution, james madison. jennings was the constant servant in james madison's study, and as madison would discuss political subjects of the day, and during his retirement review his life's work designing and defending natural rights and self-government, paul was there to hear it all, and in the book, i developed the thesis that he
4:04pm
was able to absorb the theoretical underpinnings that would allow him to identify his innate yearning for freedom as a natural right of man. jennings and madison developed a close bond of mutual respect, but they never were able to all together bridge that very deep divide between white ellite and black slaves. nevertheless, jennings had reason to expect that he would be freed by the terms of james mandyson's will. when it didn't happen, he was given to understand that madison and his wife, dolly, had come to an understanding before he died that she would free all the 100 montpelier slaves at her death,
4:05pm
and, indeed, when she wrote a will of her own a few years after that, she had a term giving freedom to my man, paul, the only slave so treated. she and her son, by her first marriage, payne todd, who plays the role of foil to jennings in the book, payne todd had every advantage in life and squander them, jennings had no vangs, but managed to carve out a life of meaning, nevertheless. dolly and her son, payne, were selling slaves a mere two months after her husband died. now, in 1838, dolly madison moved back to washington. she owned a house on i lafayette square, a block and a half from the white house. jeepings was a member of the --
4:06pm
jennings was a member of the staff so like it or not, he went back to washington too. he had come of age in washington, serving on the madison domestic staff from age 10 to age 18. he had considered running away when that periodf time was up, but instead, in the end, went back to montpelier. after all, that was his home too. he was not ready to never see his mother and other kin again, and he was the only eyewitness who left an account at the desk of james madison, but now, dolly madison was selling month peelier, and that separated jennings from his own wife and children. he had married an enslaved woman at a nearby plantation to month montpelier, and that meant their five chirp, as they came along,
4:07pm
were owned by his wife's owner. they had barely been able to get together by once a week, and now, jennings was moving from virginia all together. his wife dies about the same time. now these are motherless children back in virginia. the youngest, only two years old. now, dolly is hurting financially, even after selling montpelier. she hires jennings out to work in the james pulp white house so he has a second experience working in the white house. at one point, the president and dolly gave him permission to go back to virginia to visit his family, but he stayed longer than dolly approved. now he was on her bad side. he determined that he could wait no longer for his otonomy r for
4:08pm
his freedom. that's when he went to daniel webster, and even as a slave, it helped to know people in high places, and webster, jennings knew that webster had come to the aide of other slaves in need, but he said hi could never own a slave so his mo was to extend the purchase price and then have the newly freed individual work for webster in his household to pay off the purchase price, and that's the deal that he struck with jennings. dolly sold jennings for $200. webster allowed jennings to pay back the purchase price at the rate of $8 a month. he freed him immediately. finally, at age 48, paul
4:09pm
jennings is a free man. his story after his freedom is as compelling as the one before that event. he became a leading member of the washington free black community, and in 1848, he was an operative in an underground railroad activity that turned out to be the largest scale ever attempted slave escape known to historian as the pearl episode. 77 enslaved men, women, and children of washington, including a run away teenage slave of dolly madison's named ellen stuart, boarded a scooter and hid themselves hoping to make it to freedom in the north. it was not to be. the plan was foiled by contrary
4:10pm
winds and by a turncoat in the black community. this schooner left the harbor, but immediately there were light winds on the river that really slowed the vessel down, but when it got to chesapeake, the winds were too rough to enter the bay and had to hunker down. with the informant, that meant the white owners in washington became aware sooner rather than later. this was a sunday now, that their slaves had master minded working with white northern abolitionists as well as local black operatives like paul jennings, an escape, and they were after them, found them, and pulled the schooner back to washington as well as the human cargo, and those on board now
4:11pm
faced the fate most dreaded which was sail to the deep south and permanent separation from home and family. .. captains could have given up the other names to the authorities and he declined to do so and spent over four years in jail. what really impresses me about the story is that this was 1848. paul jennings first year of freedom so he risked his heart status to try to help others reach freedom themselves, and along the same year or so, he tys --degu
4:12pm
this is there only known ae likeness of paul jennings or any not appear slave, and i firsts set eyes on it at the home of t paul jennings great granddaughter, sylvia alexander. she was the family historian,r. she w the keeper of the traditions and overal of the directly descendants are in the audience today. not mrs. alexander however, she. died a year and a half after ial got to know her. go she was by far the last survivor of that new generation. her father -- her grandfather lived to be 90 and she spent a lot of her growing up years inht her grandparents' home. so, she was able to hear these
4:13pm
fami stories f from the horse's mouth. her own father was asleep and. her ow her own grandfather was a sleeve until age 20 himself. this is very rare in 2008 she had thisand she had this likenef enning like miss on her living-room wall. very rare to be able to debrief the slave descendant whose family stories do go back to slavery days. getting to know all of the descendantss but especially sylvia jennings alexander, very much informed my story and enriched my life. i interpret paul jennings's story as a deliberate, courageous and successful pursuit of that most american of promises, the right to rise.
4:14pm
after jennings had worked for webster for several years he got himself a low level but steady job working for a government agency, the pension office which was under the department of the interior and this was the best job that a free black at this time, talking about the >> guest: 50s when he first got this position that they might hope to find. really coveted position. jennings reunited with his children and they all lived together in northwest washington in a neighborhood that included tax slaves not only of present the best president madison but also president washington --

Terms of Use (10 Mar 2001)